We’re getting very early in my collection now, and we’re deep in Colin Baker’s first season of Doctor Who with Vengeance on Varos.
This is a story with a lot to commend it. It has something to say about reality TV, long before Big Brother and I’m a Celebrity, and it has a stand-out performance from Nabil Shaban as Sil, the slug-like alien negotiating for Zyton 7 ore for his corporation.
The show opens with a bare-chested Jason Connery being tortured (can you tell Eric Saward is script editor?) by having a bright light shone at him. Poor Jason Connery, I don’t think much of his father’s charisma rubbed off on him. Maybe it skips a generation.
The torture is being watched on TV by two ordinary people. They bicker about food rations and having to vote on everything, setting up the society we’re in.
Meanwhile in the Tardis, they’ve run out of power, and The Doctor gets miserable at the thought of using up all his regenerations stuck in the Tardis.
Back on Varos,the governor, Martin Jarvis again, asks for a vote to hold out for a better price on his ore. The vote fails, and he has to endure a punishment.
I applaud this model of democracy and would like to see in implemented here.
There’s a lot of talky exposition. Connery’s wife tells a former friend what he discovered, explaining the history of the planet, how they’re all descended from the inhabitants of a prison planet.
The Doctor needs Zyton 7 to fix the Tardis, so obviously he has to go to Varos. And the Tardis lands just before Connery is executed, just in time for the Doctor to prevent the execution and attempt to rescue Connery.
But security are on to him, and they come screaming in on their souped-up golf cart.
Cue lots of running down corridors, and hallucinations, until the Doctor is led into a hallucination chamber designed to kill him by making him believe he’s dying in a desert. The episode ends with the cameras on the Doctor, and Martin Jarvis, acting as studio director, saying “And cut it… there.”
Not the most horrifying thing in this episode, mind you. That comes when the real BBC announcer says “and in a moment on BBC One, Jim’ll Fix It.”
BBC Genome: BBC One – 19th January 1985 – 17:20
Just before the next episode, check out the BBC globe that was running at this time.
I’ve become so used to the newer computer generated globe that’s been on most of the tapes that I thought this globe was a lot older than it actually was. This is one of the mechanical globes, rotating in a curved mirror. It was replaced in 1985 by the blue and gold CG globe.
In part two, The Doctor manages to escape death, pushes a couple of poor guards into an acid bath, and cheats death again by telling Martin Jarvis that he can get them a better deal on
their car insurance their Zyton 7 ore. But Sil doesn’t want that to happen, as his company make a lot of money off the back of Varos.
Peri and Connery’s wife are put into a machine that transmogrifies them into birds, or something.
You know you’re not watching the greatest era of the programme when one of the threats faced by the Doctor is a pair of grimacing bald men in grubby boxer shorts.
It all ends well, when Sil’s parent corporation decide to look for the ore on another planet, leaving him to the Varosian justice system.
BBC Genome: BBC One – 26th January 1985 – 17:20
After this, we switch to Thames TV for an episode of V. I find it hard to pay attention to the story, being distracted by the amazing 80s hair. It’s like Jane Badler and June Chadwick were having a game of duelling hairdos.
I think I’d got pretty tired of V by this time. This episode is a runaround on the alien mothership featuring fake masks of Donovan and Parrish, and a strange alien ritual that demands a sacrifice, for which Diana has selected Lydia’s brother.
Also, Parrish has upgraded her mobile phone.
The episode leads to a cease-fire, which upsets Diana no end. then a big fist fight in the ship’s control room. I think Buffy has spoiled us for fight scenes, because the fisticuffs in this are rather lame.
This is actually the last two episodes tacked together, which explains the sudden shift between the two episodes where suddenly Donovan et al are under fire and about to be overwhelmed when the cease-fire is ordered.
The tape ends after this episode.